Not All Who Wander Are Lost: A Blog for Adventurous Women

How Adventures in Good Company got its start

Posted by Marian Marbury on Mar 24, 2014 1:10:00 PM

March 22 was our 15th anniversary. People on our trips often ask how the company gotwomen on an adventure started so this seems like an appropriate occasion to tell the story more broadly.

Choosing March 22 as our starting date is a little arbitrary, but it was the date that Woodswomen officially closed its doors. Woodswomen was a Minnesota-based non-profit, the very first company that offered trips exclusively for women. 

Guiding outdoor trips had a been a lifelong dream for me. In 1987 I moved to Minnesota to work at the Minnesota Department of Health and it was there I found Woodswomen (this being pre-Internet days). They offered exactly the kinds of trips I had always hoped to guide so I enrolled in their leadership course as a way of exploring that longtime fantasy. It was only then that I discovered that Woodswomen needed women who could guide trips occasionally throughout the year, a perfect fit with my fulltime job. Anne Flueckiger, Deb Malmon, Brenda Porter, and I all guided there in the 1990s. We learned our guiding philosophy from Denise Mitten, the Executive Director of Woodswomen, and we honed our passion for supporting women as they gained new skills and knowledge, new perspectives, and new friends. 

As it started to become apparent in the late 90s that Woodswomen was having financial troubles, I started volunteering in the office in various capacities. I discovered that I enjoyed that end of it, too. When Woodswomen finally closed its doors in 1999, I was ready to make the leap and try starting my own company. I was incredibly fortunate to be able to build on the knowledge and experience I had gained, to employ Woodswomen guides I already knew (Anne, Deb and Brenda), to buy the Woodswomen mailing list, and to adopt many of the trip itineraries. Although our trip calendar has radically changed in 15 years, it was a solid foundation.

Except I knew nothing about running a business, having been in academia or government my whole life. Marketing? Sure, that means going to the grocery store for the week's groceries. Sales? Love 'em, what a great way to save money! Accounting? It can't be that much more than balancing a checkbook.

In a word, I was totally clueless. Fortunately those were all just the details and I had learned everything I needed to know about business from rock climbing. The three most important lessons I continually thought about were:

  • When you're standing at the bottom of a climb looking up and you think you want to attempt it - but you're really not sure you will get to the top - the only true failure is to give up before you give it a try. If you try and fail, at the least you will have learned something.
  • You don't have to have figured out the entire route before you start. If you make that first move, the second one often becomes apparent. And then the third, the fourth etc.
  • You need to trust your belayer, the person who is holding onto the rope that will catch you if you fall. If you don't trust her/him, you shouldn't be climbing with them. I would trust all of our guides with my life, absolutely.
You would assume with such a great foundation and such positive determination that the business would quickly take off. You would be wrong. I had to repeat those three lessons to myself frequently, especially the first one about failure.

The only reason we survived those first three years is that I was still getting a halftime paycheck from the Minnesota Department of Health. In retrospect, that slow start was beneficial in the long run. Because marketing, sales, and accounting may be details, but they're pretty essential if you want a tiny company to survive and you don't have the capital to hire people who actually know what they're doing. Not to mention public relations, legal matters, permitting, and logistics.

But we did survive. Starting and growing this company has been the biggest adventure of my life, and everything an adventure should be: challenging, thrilling, scary, rewarding, a chance to try new things and learn new skills, learn from mistakes, and learn about myself in the process.

You might also assume that the best part of owning or guiding for a company like this is the incredible places you get to go and things you get to do. And those are wonderful, yes. But really, it's about the people you get to meet.
  • Our guides: Deb, Anne, and Brenda still guide with AGC. Jan started in 2001 when she took a rock climbing class in Joshua Tree and afterwards told me that we needed a basecamp manager for the trip and she would be perfect (she was). A few years later she was guiding a backpacking trip and noticed that the owner of the hostel where they were staying seemed very interested in what she was doing - that was Leigh, who joined us the next year. Deb came back from guiding a kayaking trip in the Caribbean and told me I needed to recruit the local guide who actually lived in New York state; Anne Brewer joined us the next year. Deb is also responsible for Stephanie Lingwood who was on a Boundary Waters trip and ready to try leading someone other than Girl Scouts. Katie found us on her own and at the age of 26, I was sure she would never keep guiding with us. I'm so glad to be wrong: watching her get married, finish a PhD and have a baby has been wonderful. And Lisa was a friend of a guide who just happened to call at the right time with the right experience.  I am so fortunate that they have all chosen to make Adventures in Good Company part of their lives.
     
  • Our partners around the world: Sometimes I 've found them, sometimes they've found us. My favorite story is meeting Giuliana. We started chatting while we were sitting in the departure lounge at Newark, both headed for Geneva. It turned out she owned a small company in Italy that did hiking and biking trips and gave me her contact information. A year later when we were planning our first trip to Italy, I emailed her. She has been organizing our Italy trips ever since and in the process has become a good friend.
     
  • Our participants: Guiding has given all of us the opportunity to meet some of the most interesting, amazing, and courageous women you could ever hope to know. It takes alot of courage to sign up for the first trip, especially when you come alone. And it also takes a leap of faith - that you'll be safe, looked after, and supported in meeting your goals. 

Thanks to all of you who have been willing to leap over the last 15 years. It certainly has been, and continues to be, an Adventure - and the Company we've shared it with has been most excellent.

Topics: adventure travel, womens travel, women only travel

Adventure Travel for Women Over 60

Posted by Marian Marbury on Jun 25, 2013 11:13:00 AM

I've written before about adventure travel for women over 50 - how, barring illness or physical disability, women over 50 were just as capable of hiking, backpacking, kayaking etc. as women moyher and daughter canoeingunder 50; and that the major element to consider when choosing adventure travel was not your age, but your level of conditioning and desire for physical activity. It's not so much the level of fitness you can achieve (unless you are into competitive sports) that declines with age, but how long it takes to get there, how soon fitness declines, and how many recovery periods you need. Age also has the advantage of experience and attitude, which often compensate for any physical differences.

But honestly I, and many of the women who have traveled with us over the past 14 years, passed the 50 year-old mark years ago. So how about adventure travel for women over 60?

I was very lucky to have a mother who went on a 5-day canoe and camping trip in the Boundary Waters with me when she was 79 - but not many of us have had the good luck to have such active role models.

This probably explains why, when women call the office about a trip, they may preface their questions with "I'm 52 or 62 (or whatever) but I'm very active". Whenever I hear this, knowing that I sound very young on the phone, I usually tell women that I am 61. This is always met by a relieved laugh, and agreement that I do indeed sound about 25 and they had just wanted to be sure they hadn't accidentally stumbled into a group for 20-somethings.

Fortunately as our generation has aged, our perspective on what is possible has changed - and our daughters have many more role models for active aging then we did. We continually see women celebrate turning 60 by signing up for challenging trips, be it trekking To Machu Picchu, backpacking the Appalachian Trail, or climbing Kilimanjaro.

Now most women (and men) actually have no interest in doing something that strenuous - but that lack of interest is not age-related. If you don't want to climb Kili to celebrate turning 60, the chances are really good that you didn't want to when you turned 40 either.

This is not to deny that as we age, the probability of developing a life-threatening or -limiting illness increases. And even if we have remained healthy, most of us have more morning stiffness and a variety of aches and pains. But there is a silver lining here; these consequences of aging strip us of THE ILLUSION THAT WE CAN PUT THINGS OFF that we want to do. We will not be fitter or more skilled next year  - unless we make that a goal right now and start actively working towards it. Our 60s are when we start realizing that making a decision not to do something this year could, through circumstance, become a decision never to do it. A choice to pursue one path is a choice not to pursue other paths -  so we better choose wisely.

Do we offer adventure travel for women over 60? Absolutely. It's called our Trip Calendar.

Topics: adventure travel, womens travel, miscellaneous

The unspoken fear about women's travel groups

Posted by Marian Marbury on Mar 25, 2013 5:47:00 AM

There are several common fears about traveling as a member of a women's travel group: Will I be the oldest? Will I be the slowest? Will everyone else want to spend a lot of time shopping? (Answers: maybe, could be, possibly but not likely). We get asked these alot either before or after women sign up for a trip. But there is another largely unspoken fear and its time to get it out in the open.

Snoring.Woman plugging ears

Yup, after we get to a certain age, a majority of women snore. Sometimes its a delicate little snore and sometimes its a steam engine. But its pretty common. Some women are afraid that their snoring will keep their roommate awake. Others fear that their roommate's snoring will keep them awake.

On our health form, we used to ask 1) do you snore? and 2) does snoring bother you? But both questions have problems. Many women simply don't know - if we don't share a bed with someone who is willing to tell us and we don't wake ourselves up, we have no way of knowing whether or not we snore.

The problem with the second question is that snoring bothers almost everyone, including women who snore. The only people who aren't bothered are those that sleep deeply (not so common once we're over 40) and those with hearing problems (increasingly common as we age but not usually so profound as to completely muffle everything). It seems unfair to "punish" women who snore by making them sleep with other snorers if snoring bothers them. As irritating as snoring can be, there is absolutely nothing an individual can do to control it.

Fortunately there is another solution and this is the one we're suggesting now: earplugs. I first really learned about earplugs when I was on our Tour du Mont Blanc trip about 9 years ago. One night 12 of us were sleepig in one large room without too much space between our mattresses (it's a very unusual trip that way). I just happened to be sleeping next to someone who was a big fan of earplugs, and most importantly, knew how to use them. She taught me, I followed her advice, and the next morning woke up after a good night's sleep. Several people started commenting about how much noise there had been in the room and how much snoring had occurred. I hadn't heard any of it. Now earplugs are part of my toiletry kit. And whenever someone tells me that earplugs don't work for them, I make sure they are using them correctly.

The trick is to make sure they are compressed before you insert them and then to straighten your ear canal as you slide them in. Since this is a bit difficult to explain, watching this excellent youTube video will help. If snoring bothers you but you don't like having to pay extra for your own room to assure a peaceful night, this will be the best 5 mintues you spend this week.

Topics: womens travel, travel tips, how to

Should women travel alone or join a group?

Posted by Marian Marbury on Oct 20, 2012 8:16:00 AM

women group travelI saw a question in a TripAdvisor's Forum from someone who was interested in a Gutsy Women Travel tour to Europe and wanted to know if anyone had experience with them (Gutsy Women is a women's travel company that offers (non-adventure) group tours to a variety of destinations). The snarkiness of many of the replies was appalling, and basically came down to - if a woman is gutsy, she doesn't need to go with a tour group. Of course I think that is an absurd proposition, but it made me think again about the pros and cons of single vs group travel for women.

Many women who travel with us do so because they have no one to travel with: either their spouses/partners don't enjoy travel, want a different kind of trip, or are too busy; and/or their friends aren't active and prefer spa, shopping, or beach vacations. So for many women the choice isn't whether to go with a travel company or with friends and family, it's whether to go with a company or by themselves.

There are pros and cons to each, and ultimately it comes down to the style of travel you enjoy - there isn't a right or wrong, a bold or a timid way. Like so many things in life, we need to be honest with ourselves about what we truly enjoy, not what we think we should enjoy.

Here are some questions that can help you decide what type of travel is right for you.

  1. Do you enjoy trip planning? Is it fun to pick a destination and then spend time on the internet planning where you'll stay and what you'll do when you're there, possibly making some contacts with people before you go who you can meet when you're there? Or does that feel like work? Do you prefer to put that all in someone else's hands so all you need to do is pack?

  2. Do you like planning how to get around, possibly renting a car or taking public transport? Or do you find you can focus more on where you are if you don't have to figure out how to get there?

  3. Do you like complete spontaneity, deciding every day what to do? Or do you prefer not having to think about what to do every day, but instead being able to follow a prearranged plan?

  4. Do you enjoy being on your own? Do you find it easy to start up conversations and meet new people? Do you like dining alone? Or do you enjoy the camaraderie inherent in group travel when everyone is sharing the same adventure?

  5. Do you like problem-solving all the little things that inevitably come up when you're traveling? Or do you like the idea of someone else having to do that?

  6. Do you like navigating a foreign culture and figuring out how to communicate when you don't know the language? Or is that anxiety-provoking and something you don't enjoy?

The answers to these questions can change with the circumstances and the destination. For example, much of Europe is easy to navigate - many people can speak some English, signs are often in English, and public transportation is usually quite good. I've travelled there by myself and while I find it is less relaxing and more work than being part of a group, there are times that feels like a reasonable tradeoff for the freedom and spontaneity that independent travel brings - although I do always miss the camaraderie of group travel. On the other hand I have not been tempted to travel independently in Bulgaria, where the alphabet is Cyrillic and most people outside the cities speak very little English. I think I could find my way around, but I know I would understand much less about where I was and what I was seeing. And it definitely would not be relaxing.

If you have never done either and you're not sure which you prefer, I recommend starting with a group - you'll learn alot about how to travel and about what you like. Once you have some confidence, you can decide whether or not trying solo travel has any interest for you. If women-only adventure travel sounds appealing, check out all our trips on our continually updated Trip Calendar.

The only serious mistake you can make is staying at home when your heart wants to be on the road.

Topics: womens travel, safety, international destinations

4 Reasons to Visit Bryce and Zion National Parks

Posted by Katie Flanagan on Aug 7, 2012 5:00:00 AM

My first experience with women's adventure travel was in 2008 on AGC's Hiking in Bryce and Zion trip. As this annual trip approaches – I am reminded of that memorable experience. For a while prior to that trip I had browsed the AGC website and thought... someday... then that someday turned into a few years. And I finally decided to just do it – spoil myself, take a leap, and grow through a new experience. It was one of the most gratifying decisions I would make. There were a few reasons I chose Hiking in Bryce and Zion as my first trip with AGC, and a few more reasons why I will never regret that choice.

First, it made financial and logistical sense. It was a shorter trip – requesting 2 days off of work seemed a lot more realistic than 5 or more. My boss wasn't a fan of vacations – so the longer the time you took off, the longer he made you 'pay' for it. The trip started in Las Vegas – flights to there are reasonable and regularly scheduled. So, Vegas is easy to get to and even fun to just 'witness' the spectacle that it is for an afternoon or longer if that is your pleasure.

Second, we got to stay in Zion National Park! Often I had gazed at lodges within National Parks and thought – gosh it must be impossible to get into that place. I would have to make reservations almost a year in advance, and I like to plan ahead – but a year is a long time. It is true, you have to make reservations far in advance and that is exactly why its great to travel with a group like AGC. AGC secures reservations a year out – but you can often sign up for a trip like this within a more reasonable amount of time (3-4 months prior). And if you never have stayed in a National Park – it is as magical as you may imagine!

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Hoodoos on Peekaboo Trail – It's fun just to say "Hoodoos" and "Peekaboo" – let alone walking through a canyon rolling full of towering spires. Bryce Canyon National Park is known for its geological structures called hoodoos, formed by frost weathering and stream erosion of the river and lake bed sedimentary rocks. Your pictures will look like postcards.

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Angels Landing - Arguably Utah’s most talked-about hike — the aptly named Angels Landing is a five-mile round-trip climb of 1,488 feet from the Virgin River to the top of a cliff. This is a strenuous hike with steep drop-offs. While more of a mental challenge than a physical challenge, I recall fellow participants remarking that completing the trail was the highlight of the trip. Of course if heights are not your thing – you can continue on a less exposed and very enjoyable trail.

Whether or not these reasons resonate with you on some level – I hope you put Bryce and Zion on your “life list” and if you think women's adventure travel may suit you – read more about the trip here: Hiking Bryce and Zion National Parks There is still space available on our Fall 2013 trip – November 2-5, 2013.

 

Topics: active travel, womens travel, National Park trips, domestic destinations

Adventure travel for women over 50: Are there limitations?

Posted by Marian Marbury on Jul 9, 2012 7:48:00 AM

adventure travel for women over 50No, there are no limitations on adventure travel for women over 50. See, wasn't that a simple answer? There are limitations for women of any age with significant illness or mobility impairment; for women with a low level of physical conditioning; and for women who lack flexibility, curiosity, and a sense of adventure. But other than the fact that some illnesses are more common as we age, most of these important qualities are not age-related.

Whether adventure travel is a good choice for you, is more a characteristic of the kind of travel you enjoy than your age. Many of the women who travel with us and many of our guides are over 50.

Having said that, there are a few aspects of getting older that are important to be aware of.

    1. You can still get in great physical condition, but it takes longer and you lose it faster. So you may need to build in some additional prep time if you are choosing something more physically challenging than your usual exercise routine prepares you for. Recovery time also is more critcal so make sure you take regular rest days.

    2. Knees tend to be the biggest problem, especially for women who have been active their whole lives. Between the ages of 50 and 65 we are most likely to have problem knees that still aren't bad enough to require knee replacement surgery.

      The first thing to do is see if you can rehab your knees. Taking up a strength-training program that includes lunges and squats can help tremendously. Check with your doctor to make sure your knee pain isn't a symptom of something that will be worsened by these exercises, and make sure you get instruction in how to perform them properly. If your knees are really bad, a good physical therapist may be helpful in designing a program that will strengthen the muscles surrounding your knees and avoid further injury.

      If you are signing up for a hiking trip, use trekking poles. We actually suggest you use trekking poles for hiking whether or not you have knee problems: they are invaluable for preserving your knees on descents in any case.

      But it's also important to be realistic - if you have knee pain on gentle downhills, don't choose a trip with descents over 1000 feet on multiple days. With the proper use of trekking poles and anti-inflammatory drugs, you can get through a day or two. But a week of strenuous hiking or climbing Mt Kilimanjaro will just make you miserable. Fortunately there are lots of other ways you can still have outdoor adventures: kayaking, canoeing, rafting, and horseback riding are all excellent choices.

      Some other good news? We've had many women on our trips who have had knee replacement surgery and gotten back to full hiking strength.

    3. Another change that often accompanies getting older is having your stomach talk back to you when you eat too much too late, or eat the wrong things. And sometimes late dinners just can't be avoided on a trip, especially on an international trip or any adventure trip where unpredictability is just a fact of life. The best way to deal with this is anticipation - plan to eat more at lunch, carry snacks, and practice pushing the plate away at dinner (or carry a plastic sandwich box and put your leftovers in it for that midday meal tomorrow).

    4. You're more likely to need the facilities in the middle of the night (Joke: You know you're middle-aged when your idea of pulling an all-nighter is making it through the entire night without having to get up). This is one reason why some women have given up camping as they've gotten older. But another way to look at it is the additional opportunity to look at the stars, listen to the night noises, and enjoy the darkness we so seldom experience if we live in a city.

      If you're sharing a room, you may worry about disturbing your roommate. But she's probably worried about the same thing!
If you're over 50 and concerned you'll be older than everyone else, you probably won't be. But if you like the idea of a trip especially for women over 50, in 2013 we're offering two of our most popular trips in two slightly different versions, and on one we're extending a special invitation to women over 50. If this sounds appealing to you, check out our Spring Wildflowers and Waterfalls and our Fall Exploring Utah's National Parks trip.

The only thing we can all know for sure is that we aren't going to get younger. And the older we get, the less likely it is that things will get easier. If there is something you've been wanting to try or a place you've wanted to go, but you're afraid you're too old, don't give up on it until you've gotten a realistic assessment from someone impartial about whether that really is beyond your reach. In our experience, 50 is the new 35!

Hiking Tips for Women

Topics: clothing and gear, adventure travel, womens travel, health and fitness

The Hunger Games and Adventure Travel

Posted by Katie Flanagan on Apr 2, 2012 5:32:00 PM

Hunger GamesOn Adventures in Good Company trips, participants often share some of their favorite books. The conversations usually results in a compilation of recommended reads. So, I thought I'd share a brainstorm after just finishing the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

Now, I recognize that it is a work of fiction (science fiction/fantasy, at that) – but I couldn't help but “wanting to be like,” Hunger Games' heroine, Katniss Everdeen! She is an inspiration to any woman adventure traveler. And I think Katniss and AGC participants have a lot in common! Read on...there is no spoiler alert in this post, it will just make you want to read the bestselling book, watch the movie (a blockbuster hit in its first weekend), then be the Katniss Everdeen of your next AGC trip!

AGC participants and Katniss both know...

  • Essential supplies are critical for survival – Katniss's first priority was to secure a backpack full of supplies. AGC participants learn how to be prepared for all conditions - whether they’re out for a day hike, overnight, or week-long backpacking trip, essential supplies are lifesaving.

  • The importance of a good water source – be it filtering from a lake or purifying with iodine tabs, AGC participants learn multiple water purifying techniques. Even Katniss (fighting for her life) knew to wait 30 minutes (after mixing in drops of iodine) before drinking.

  • There is strength in numbers – Katniss and Rue paired up during their wilderness adventure. AGC participants are also surrounded by like-minded women and agree two is better than one.

  • How to just be yourself - Katniss won the crowd over by just being herself. On AGC trips, participants are able to 'let their hair down' and genuinely be themselves. AGC trips are unintimidating fun-loving atmosphere.

 

Topics: womens travel, outdoors tips

Outdoor Adventure for Women - PFDs

Posted by Deb Malmon on Dec 29, 2011 1:22:00 PM

If you are a woman who loves outdoor adventure, you probably have noticed many women-specific items on the retail market.  Backpacks, climbing harnesses, sleeping bags, bicycles, etc. The design of gear oriented towards women is based on the general anatomy of the female body - narrower shoulders, shorter torso, and wider hips.

While I am definitely not built with this anatomical womanly shape I understand the need for differently designed gear and have seen countless women through my years of guiding benefit from women-specific fit.describe the image

One area that has seen recent growth is gear for women's kayaking adventures. From kayaks, to paddles to PFDs women are getting new, technical and better fitting equipment. One of the most valuable pieces of gear for women, in my opinion, is a women-specific PFD. If a PFD does not fit your anatomical shape it is not merely a matter of being uncomfortable - it actually can be unsafe.

What is a PFD and how should it fit? PFD stand for: personal flotation device (aka lifejacket) and is your most important piece of safety gear when paddling.

A good PFD will:

  • provide adequate flotation
  • be Coast Guard approved (most paddling sports require Type III)
  • fit properly: it should be snug around the torso with all the straps cinched down and when you pull on the shoulder straps the PFD should not rise above your lower ribs.   
  • be designed specifically for paddling: it will have less bulk around the shoulders, bigger arm holes to allow a full range of motion, and a shorter torso for comfort when sitting in a kayak.

Sizing:  Historically PFDs have come in men's sizing. Many of these PFDs come in small, medium and large, though some places definitely have just one-size-fits-all style of PFD.  All are adjustable to widen or tighten straps based on your size. 

Women, with almost any sized torso, often do not fit in this "universal design" of PFD.  And if you have an ample bosom, in order to fit around your torso, you usually have to go up a size in PFD. This oftentimes means it is too long in the back and too loose around the shoulders no matter how much you tighten the straps. So once you sit in your kayak seat it rises up around your chin or even ears. This can (and has) cause skin abrasions while paddling and interference with your stroke; but worse, if you fell in the water, the PFD is no longer snug around you which is the key to it helping keep you safely afloat.

Women-specific PFDs:  Women's PFDs allow for a greater range of adjustability and various foam panel configurations to accommodate different builds. They often have split paneling on the front of the jacket so that it wraps around the front of the body and keeps the bust securely in place.  

As with any gear or equipment for paddlers, there is no one PFD that can be considered "best" for all female paddlers. When selecting a PFD, each individual needs to take into account factors such as how well it fits, how you plan to use the PFD (for day trips or extended journeys), and how advanced a paddler you are-do you really need the tow rope loop if you don't even own a tow rope? 



Some features to look for in determining which PFD is right for you are: visibility; range of motion (for paddle sweeps and bending during rolls); length (the shorter styles are usually better fitting for women); comfort; and useful features such as mesh pockets or gear loops. 

Low profile PFDs: They have less foam on the front of the jacket (under the arms and neck), especially in the chest area. For women these can be a good choice; because we already have natural "flotation devices" on our chest, PFDs that are bulky (high profile) in the front can feel restrictive and uncomfortable. If the PFD you're looking at is low-pofile, coast guard approved and fits you well, then you can feel confident that it has enough flotation to float you even though it may look smaller than other designs. 

Own it. If you join us on a kayaking vacation and have your own PFD which you find very comfortable and well-fitting, bring it with you. Most places we kayak are going to have universal sized PFDs and they may not fit you adequately. Alternatively, if you like to join other groups on kayak trips and do not have your own PFD, and end up with ill fitting ones on the trip, consider buying one that is suited for your body. It will make your trip much more enjoyable.

And really- isn'that the goal of paddling - to be enjoyable? 

Topics: clothing and gear, womens travel, outdoors tips

5 steps to becoming an outdoors woman

Posted by Marian Marbury on Jul 5, 2011 4:01:00 PM

When I was in my late teens, I decided that one of my major goals was becoming an outdoors woman. For me, that meant being comfortable in the outdoors for an extended time, which meant being competent in outdoor skills. It took a few years but here are 5 steps that helped.

1. Gather information. Read Backpacker Magazine, any of the many books available, and talk to people whose experience you admire.

2. Join a local outing club. Almost all cities have some kind of club and starting with people who know more than you do is always helpful.

3. Take some specific skills classes. For example, REI has stores everywhere and they usually offer weekend clinics and programs throughout the year. See if you have a local outdoor store as they may offer the same. For example, Midwest Mountaineering in Minnesota is an excellent source. Practice the skills on your own. I guarantee that you won't learn how to use a map and compass in one clinic but it will give you a basis for practicing on your own.

4. Make a list of equipment and clothing that you know you will need, and then start looking at sales, Craigslist, discount website etc. Don't focus on gear but know what you need and get decent quality that will last a long time.

5. Once you have some basic competence, take an extended wilderness trip. It could be backpacking or canoeing or kayaking, but it should be at least 2 weeks, in the wilderness, and it should not be with a company like us. If you're not ready for that, then by all means go on a shorter trip with a company and hone those skills a bit more. But here's the thing - there is a common saying that good judgement comes from experience. And you can only really get experience when you are the one who has to make decisions, which won't happen if someone else is in charge. Yes, you will make mistakes. But that is how you will learn and those are the lessons you will never forget.

6. Ignore all these steps. Just get out there and do it.

Women backpacking the Appalachian Trail

Topics: active travel, womens travel, outdoors tips

Three myths about womens travel

Posted by Marian Marbury on Jun 20, 2011 9:42:00 AM

Womens travel has grown significantly in the last 20 years, with over two dozen companies that specialize in women only travel or  offer women only trips  in conjunction with their regular offerings. A  more recent addition about five years ago were "girlfriends getaways",  often hotel packages with an emphasis on getting together with your  girlfriends to get pampered, drink wine, and recreate your college days.  As this notion of women taking trips together becomes mainstream,  certain assumptions, or myths, have become prevalent. And like all  myths, they may contain some truth- but their widespread adoption  obscures what makes women only travel unique.

Myth 1: A womens trip is usually just a watered-down version of a mixed gender trip.

Truth: Some may be. But women only travel actually had  its start in adventure travel, and many companies offer trips that are  just as rigorous as mixed gender trips. So if you're interested in a  women's trip, read the itinerary carefully and call the company with questions if you're unsure. But never assume that just because it's a women only trip, anyone can do it.

Myth 2. Women's travel is all about shopping, cooking classes, and  pampering.

Truth: Again, some womens trips, especially Girlfriends Getaways, do focus on those things. But many others offer some activity with varying levels of difficulty. And many focus much more on spending  time in nature than in stores.

Myth 3: On an all womens trip, the main focus of conversation is men  and male-bashing is common.

Truth: Talking about men is uncommon and male-bashing is infrequent. Women only travel is all about camaraderie,  laughing, and the special feeling of connection that happens when women  get together. Sometimes women going through painful transitions with a  male partner may bring them up, but more in the context of seeking support than venting.

There are a wide variety of vacations for women available today. Whether  you want a kayaking adventure or shopping, a hiking adventure or pampering, there's something  suitable for any woman who wants to experience the special magic that  happens when women get together. Just make sure you know what you're signing up for.

Women in Alaska

Topics: womens travel